Summer classes, particularly online summer classes, have always been difficult for me. I took quite a few in undergrad to get through my degrees faster, and other than one memorable photography class, they were always the classes I did worst in. It is very difficult for me to stay engaged in an online class – the primary reason why I picked a program that is intended to be primarily face-to-face. And without having some kind of synchronous class meeting I could prepare for every week, it always becomes too easy for me to fall behind. I knew that in order to meet my goal of finishing my program in two years I would need to take some summer classes, so when I signed up for my two online classes this summer, I hoped things would be different.
I turned in my final projects for those classes last week, and after a week of being able to relax and not think about school, I’m beginning to reflect on what went right in those classes, and how this could be applied to the fall semester.
Choose courses carefully
This summer, I took a class on metadata, and one on equity, diversity, and inclusion. Both of these are topics I have some foundational knowledge in, but wanted to dig into more deeply. The summer semester in my program is very condensed, but I was able to feel a bit more prepared going into both the readings and the coursework because I already had a little bit of experience with these subjects. While it isn’t always possible to pick classes you already know something about, being able to make some kind of connection between what you’re learning and things you already have experience with can make the workload seem less overwhelming.
As a second consideration, if you are working during the summer as well, how can your classwork be applied to your real work? Through my academic library job, I spent a lot of the summer working in the college’s archives. My metadata class turned out to be really relevant, particularly when we began to digitize some of the archival materials.
Write down everything
As soon as I got the syllabi, I went through them and wrote down and highlighted every deadline for every assignment, in multiple places. I use a combination of Google calendar and a paper planner. Writing things down helps engrain things in my head, but getting digital alerts the day before an assignment was due definitely saved me a few times. Maybe neither of those options work for you, or you already have a different system you like, but something I will definitely carry with me into the fall semester is the importance of writing deadlines down in as many places as possible.
Tell people what your priorities are.
A lot of my friends and family assumed that since it was summer I must be done with school and have tons of free time! When my classes began, I had to be very clear that despite it being summer I was still in school, and to ask people to be respectful of the time I need to spend on my classes. I also had to be really intentional about making plans that did not interfere with when assignments were due – which was usually Friday nights. While I did miss out on some family gatherings and friend hangouts, the flexibility of online classes also allowed me to do things like take spontaneous midweek hikes at some of the nearby state parks.
While online summer classes are still not my favorite, I am glad I had the opportunity to develop strategies that I can continue to use during my second year of library school.
Do you like or dislike summer classes? What are your strategies for handling condensed learning?
Robin is the Community Manager of Hack Library School, and a student at University of Wisconsin Madison. They are on Twitter at @robinmgee